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As a child, Chris Sayer was a familiar face around Burnaby Mountain Golf Course. His family took him there regularly to practice on the driving range, feed the ducks and have snacks in the kitchen. Little did they know those experiences would lead directly to his first job.
"Chris got to be well known there and he always was interested in helping out with the servers and in the kitchen," says his mom Shawn. "We always spent Mother’s Day at the breakfast buffet and the manager asked if Chris would like to run omelet orders and clear tables. That is how his employment began."
That was ten years ago, and Chris remains an important part of the kitchen crew today. "I clean dishes – loading the dish machine and scrubbing pots," he explains proudly. "Sometimes I assist the chef with other tasks."
Chris’ parents took a hands-on role early on to help Chris successfully transition into the work environment. "Glen (Chris’ father) worked in the hotel and restaurant industry and was familiar with kitchen dish machines," says Shawn. "He agreed to go to work with Chris, where he demonstrated what was expected and how to be safe. Later, he stayed close by so if Chris had a problem or the staff needed assistance communicating with Chris, he was there." Eventually, everyone was comfortable, and Glen was able to step back and allow Chris to work fully independently. It really helped that Chris’ new co-workers and managers were understanding, friendly and willing to take the time to explain things to him.
It’s those people who make the golf course Chris’ favourite place to work. "When it is really busy and the dishes pile up, it’s hard work. I get exhausted," confesses Chris. "But I love working with all the people in the kitchen, and the customers who know me."
A few years into his job, the City of Burnaby took over food services from the independent operator who ran it previously, and Chris had to reapply and go through a job interview. Glen was present throughout the interview process, but Chris answered all the questions appropriately on his own.
Chris is a highly motivated worker who actively thinks about ways to be an encouragement to his colleagues. That fits in with his future goals, which include doing more prep work in the kitchen and helping the chefs more directly.
According to Shawn, having a job has given Chris a routine, independence, purpose and responsibility. It also gives him extra spending money to enable him to save up to purchase items that are important to him.
That success starts at home. "We really feel that getting involved as parents along with your child, and spending time volunteering with them, helps to build relationships that can lead to career opportunities," says Shawn. "Find out what your child is passionate about. Get familiar with the location and the people working there. Spend time with the people in that environment and get to know them."
And when it comes time to apply for the job, Chris says it’s important to remember the basics: "Always be on time, dress appropriately and work hard."
For Chris, those things are just par for the course.
The Inclusive Employment Success Story series is co-presented by the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation and Canadian Down Syndrome Society. Check the DSRF blog and CDSS website from June 10-20, 2019 for additional stories.